Shoot From The Hip


As photographers, we’re so often bound by the rules of the game. Hold your camera correctly, keep your horizon straight, check your histograms, remember the rule of thirds, close your mouth when you chew, etc. Don’t you ever just feel like breaking ALL of the rules… even for a little while?

Pacific Sunset

One of the things I do that I find to be really invigorating is shooting from the hip. It’s not hard to do — you just pick up your camera, go somewhere, and take a picture without looking through the viewfinder. It doesn’t have to actually be from your hip, but it can be if you’d like. See something that looks interesting? Just click! Another thing I like to do is take pictures while I’m walking with my camera in my hand at my side. It looks like I’m just walking along, but I’m really taking snapshots of points of interest. That’s how I got this silhouette shot.

Drive-By Shooting

I’m always surprised at the results that I get from doing this sort of thing. Most turn out really crappy, but some actually turn out better than they would have if you were trying to get the shot. There’s a lot that you can teach yourself by analyzing the composition and lighting of your “Hip Shots”. Why? Because you’re outside the box and you’re getting shots you would normally never allow yourself to take.

One last note: wide angle lenses are great for this type of thing — all 3 of the shots above were taken with my 10-20mm zoom. The DOF is awesome, you don’t have to be dead-on with your aim, and it’s a lot of fun to do a drive-by on your Dad 12 inches from his face while he’s trying to drink a beer.

This entry was posted in Composition, Quick-Tip on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

20 thoughts on “Shoot From The Hip

  1. Chris Lodge

    Cool idea, and sometimes I think that ‘just push the button’ is the best piece of advice to give. It’s always possible to over-think anything.

    Just be careful that your camera’s not pointing up places it shouldn’t be…… ;-)

  2. Lisa

    I love shooting from the hip. It’s liberating, not thinking everything through. You’re right about the wide angle. I tried it with a 50mm. Wasn’t fun at all.

  3. the_wolf_brigade

    “Shoot from the hip” – the Lomography catch phrase!

    I actually found this image a couple of days ago. While it was taken on film, (an Olympus XA – aperture priority, 35mm lens), the concept remains the same. I suppose 35mm is a slightly wide angle though.

    I’m definitely going to have to try this with digital. That silhouette shot is fantastic!

  4. Brian Auer Post author

    Lomography is so cool. I think if I were to ever shoot film, that’s what I’d be doing. That photo you found is awesome! As for the silhouette shot, the only thing I really did in Photoshop was straightening. The exposure and color came out just the way you see it.

  5. jerry

    Yeah, this is a great idea. I have done a little of this when I was out in public and wanted to either get photos of someone without being obvious or just wanted a candid without them hamming it up for the camera.

    Mainly use my 18-70mm lens @ 18mm for this and have scored some interesting shots with this method.

  6. Pamela Miller

    I pretty much shoot everything as it is. I joke that my idea of ‘touch-up’ is adjusting the light in an editor. I got a handstrap for my camera because I just like to lift and shoot.

  7. Pamela Miller

    I love mine.
    I shoot primarily whatever catches my eye. However, I love shooting nascar races.
    The wrist strap helps because I don’t like the neck strap and carrying $1000+ in camera equipment around without any tether is a dumb idea. But I’m getting smarter. :D

  8. Niels Henriksen

    I am a little late in responding.

    A variant on shooting-from-the-hip is shooting while-your-arm-is-swinging.

    In some busy locations and more so in tourist destination it can be come difficult to capture the natural ambiance of a street market scene if you stop and raise your camera. This may cause people to stop and look and therefore ruin a more natural scene or the people may start to strongly object to having there pictures taken.

    You can with practice and I recommend that you do practice, is learn to take pictures with your arm swinging back a forth as you walk and at just the right movement there is a little hesitation in arm and then the press of the shutter button. A wider angle works best and not every shot is well framed.

    This does permit you to candidly take pictures. I do recommend that when every possible that you first engage your subject(s) and get some permission to take their picture. But there are times when you just can’t do this.

  9. Susheel Chandradhas


    I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for a while now. I think this has something to do with Jim’s backyard photography project, but I was doing the exact same thing a couple of days ago… “Shooting from the hip” at night in my neighbourhood…

    I may be able to put some of the pics into a post sometime soon.

  10. Krishna

    Wouldn’t this mean shooting in automatic mode? That’s the only put off. Otherwise the technique sounds interesting. Btw shooting from the hip level may actually result in an interesting angle.

  11. Brian Auer Post author

    No, you wouldn’t have to shoot in Automatic mode — you could use program, aperture, or shutter priority just as easily. You could do it in manual mode too, but the metering might be slightly off. Shooting at hip level does result in interesting shots, but really you could shoot from any level. What I mean by “from the hip” is shooting without using the viewfinder — just point and shoot.

  12. jerry

    Wouldn’t this mean shooting in automatic mode?

    When I shoot like that, I tend to shoot in aperture priority. While that doesn’t give me the control that full manual does, it is generally effective enough to give me something good enough to work with.

  13. Brian Auer Post author

    Good question Pelayo, but the main point isn’t to just get a different perspective — it’s to take shots in a semi-random fashion without looking through the viewfinder to compose.

  14. Chris

    Just to clear up a bit of a misconception 2shooting from the hip” comes from the age old tradition of street photography, it being a stealth method of obtaining candid shots of unsuspecting subjects.

  15. Chris

    p.s Use your depth of field scale and you’re quite able to employ this method with a manual focus camera without looking through the viewfinder.

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